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Morning Memo: Medical marijuana, topless rallies, possums on today's legislative agenda

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Bring the Doritos and the duct tape for the House Rules Committee meeting Wednesday. The powerful panel will consider a bill to legalize marijuana for medicinal use and another aimed at topless rallies in Asheville by women seeking gender equity. (The committe chairman recently suggested women could use duct tape to get around the law.) On the more serious side, a House committee will consider a measure to repeal the estate tax, even though top Senate Republicans are not interested in the issue as part of their tax proposal. The Senate Rules Committee considers the possum bill. Both chambers convene at 2 p.m.

ANN McCRORY'S INAUGURAL GOWN GOES TO MUSEUM: From AP -- North Carolina first lady Ann McCrory is turning over her inaugural gown to the N.C. Museum of History, which will include it in an exhibition about governors and their spouses. Ann McCrory's gown will be on display Wednesday evening during an event for History Museum associates. After that, it will be featured in the exhibit "Leading the State: North Carolina's Governors," which ends April 28. During the event Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory will speak briefly with the N.C. Museum of History Benefactors Circle and the Gold Quill Society.

Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo, a daily political tipsheet for North Carolina. Read much more below.

New conservative nonprofit plans conferences -- and big-money access

The new conservative nonprofit organization that is picking up the tab for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory’s alt-inaugural bash next month is planning an active role in North Carolina politics.

And it is courting big-money donors in order to pull it off.

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Morning Roundup: Competing galas, Dix property

After 20 inaugural balls, the Junior League of Raleigh has some competition -- from the governor.

Raleigh city councilman says he like the idea of turning Dix into a park. So why did he vote against it?

And here's a profile of Keith Sutton, the new chairman of the Wake County school board.


Dome Memo: Pools, drilling, chairs

With the legislature back in town, Under the Dome is launching the Dome Memo, to give you a quick take on what happened in government that week.

If you've been busy, or simply weren't paying attention, this will be an easy way to catch up on what people are talking about in government and political circles.

It might be the latest on the budget, an update on a controversial bill or an assessment of how the governor fared. It may dip into what our congressional delegation is up to in D.C., or what the bureaucracy is doing in Raleigh.

Here's a quick taste:

POOL REPORT: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan may need a fact-checker. After criticizing a "men-only" pool at the Senate, the Greensboro Democrat learned she was mistaken. The pool is open to female senators, but none use it. As Dome's former editor used to say, nothing ruins a good story like checking it out.

DRILLING DOWN: Have legislative leaders stacked the deck against drilling? A task force looking into offshore drilling has so many professors it could qualify as a faculty meeting. Industry representatives? Not so many. And a co-chair has already come out very publicly against drilling.

MUSICAL CHAIRS: On second thought, Gov. Beverly Perdue does want some say on the next state Democratic chair. Hoping to avoid a fight, Perdue stayed on the sidelines until coming out for former Buncombe County commissioner David Young earlier this week.

IN OTHER NEWS: Former Tar Heel James Taylor addressed attendees at the Eastern inaugural ball in Washington as "fellow Yankees," but he made up for it by getting them to sing along to "Carolina in My Mind." ... The legislature starts next today. Topic A will be the economy. There is no Topic B. ... Perdue has already dropped in on a state mental hospital and Department of Transportation workers. Probation officers might want to look busy for the next couple weeks. ... Some Dome readers have taken offense at the term "sin tax" for cigarettes and alcohol. For now, there are no state taxes on false idol worship, bearing false witness or adultery.

Your carriage awaits...

The chairs are set and the grits are warming.

The preparations are almost done for the N.C. Society's black-tie ball for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. 

The event will start at 8 p.m. at the Marriott Wardman Park, a tony hotel not far from the national zoo. 

Dome is here as part of a minimal press contingent operating under pretty strict restrictions on access. We will be allowed to talk to some of the 1,800 attendees as they arrive tonight, and we'll get to watch the presentation of the Congressional delegation.

Also, we have to leave at 10 p.m., two hours before the ball ends.

This is a huge contrast with the Junior League's inaugural ball for Gov. Beverly Perdue, where Dome and several colleagues were given a special media room and all-access passes throughout the Raleigh Convention Center.

New England in his mind

James Taylor is sticking with his birthplace for the inauguration.

The North Carolina-bred singer will be performing at the Eastern Inaugural Ball at Union Station in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

One of 10 official balls at which President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will make an appearance, the regional ball is for residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and their guests.

Taylor was born in Massachusetts, raised in Carrboro and now lives in the Berkshires. He performed a series of shows across North Carolina in support of Obama in October, and was invited to — but did not attend — Gov. Beverly Perdue's inauguration.

He also played at a star-studded concert at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday.

North Carolinians looking for fun on Tuesday will be across town at the National Guard Armory for the Southern Inaugural Ball. They will be listening to the Derek Trucks Band with Susan Tedeschi and the Wil Gravatt Band.

To add insult to injury, Liquid Pleasure of Chapel Hill will be the other entertainer at the Eastern ball.

No word yet on whether Taylor will play "Carolina In My Mind" in his set.

Shuler walking to inauguration

Heath ShulerU.S. Rep. Heath Shuler is taking his kids.

The Waynesville Democrat plans to walk to the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama with his wife, son Navy and daughter Island.

Later in the day, he'll attend the Southern States Ball, one of the larger official events, according to spokesman Andrew Whalen. The ball will be held at the National Guard Armory.

Etheridge's plans for inauguration

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge will go to the inauguration with his family.

The Lillington Democrat plans to attend the swearing-in ceremony for President-elect Barack Obama with his wife, Faye; son, Brian; and daughter-in-law Meredith.

Afterward, the family will watch the inaugural parade. 

He also plans to attend the North Carolina Society's inaugural ball Monday night and the Southern Ball Tuesday night.

Previously: Rep. Brad Miller's and Sen. Kay Hagan's plans. 

Hagan plans to walk to inauguration

Sen. Kay Hagan will attend the inauguration with her husband.

The Greensboro Democrat said that she will walk for about a mile and half to get to the swearing-in ceremony for President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday.

"You better believe I'm going to be bundled up," she said, noting the recent cold snap in Washington. "I do have a seat (but) I don't think there's going to be heaters next to it."

Hagan said that she will also attend the North Carolina Society's ball on Monday and the Southern Ball on Tuesday with her husband, who is driving up this weekend.

She added that her son and two daughters, who all campaigned vigorously for her, are back in college and will not be with her for the inauguration.

"They were all up here for my swearing-in," she said. "They'll watch it on TV."

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